Sunday, January 17, 2010

On My 90th Birthday

i'll think about my first memory
the long, red nails of my first grade teacher
"you have to go. your parents are here"
leaving class early, leaving india
how different life would be
if we weren't nomads

i'll remember the familiar stench
urea soaked into a flimsy mattress
flame-haired naniji scrubbing my accident
with a blue bar of detergent

on my 90th birthday
i'll share a story
there was a time when i was young
and ran 13 miles. why?
just because.
it was difficult and i couldn't walk after
but i felt so happy

i'll laugh about the past
as grandchildren braid my thin hair
"don't eat that!" shrieks my daughter to her own
no, i say, let her be
she glares at me. i don't mind

on my 90th birthday
i will eat chocolate cake
without my dentures
and feed my loved one a piece
as it was on our wedding day
camera flashes were blinding us then
and voices - feed her! feed him!
the awkward tenderness of it all
lost by the obnoxious click, click, click

i'll honor those i've lost
and cherish the lives i've gained
a toast in my name
by those i taught to speak
how strange it is
to see them dancing
when once their tiny legs couldn't walk

on my 90th birthday
i'll smile
it's been a good life
things don't always turn out
the way you thought they would
but i'm happy, very happy
with a lifetime of stories
i want them to stay alive
so i tell them to the grandchildren
they listen, ask questions
laugh at the absurdities of my youth

i know it's almost over
you don't have to lie
even though you do it out of love
don't hide the tears
it's okay to cry
give me some time
a little bit of love
and a hug everyday
thats all i want
on my 90th birthday

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